Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney January 6, 2008

Not walking is not cheating

Why is cricket the only major sport in the world where some people demand that players do the umpires' jobs for them?

'The one thing the players can do to help is to leave all the decisions to the umpires' © Getty Images

While the poor umpiring during the Sydney Test has attracted many of the headlines, much vitriol has also been directed at several players for not walking when they have nicked the ball. At best they have been accused of unsporting behaviour, at worst of downright cheating.

And yet what is it about cricket that it is the only major sport in the world where some people demand that players do the umpires' jobs for them? There is nothing in the Laws that requires a batsman to walk, although there is a widespread feeling that batsmen always used to do so in the good old days, and by not doing so now the current generation show themselves as being inferior.

The reality is that walking has always been a contentious issue. The concept grew up in social cricket in Victorian times when the whole ethos of gentlemen being sportsmen was formulated. And yet, even at that level, there were some batsmen who walked and some who did not.

WG Grace, the epitome of Victorian cricket, never walked. Lord Harris, who is possibly the most establishment figure the game has ever known, admitted in his autobiography to have stood his ground when he knew he was out. "This is a case when the umpire on appeal has decided that a batsman is not out," he wrote. "The batsman, although he knows he was out, has no business to retire from the wicket."

In the 1920s there is a story of Johnny Douglas, the Essex amateur captain, storming into the Gloucestershire dressing room to berate a young Wally Hammond, at the time a professional, for not walking. Both were at one time England captains.

And yet at the same time Jack Hobbs admitted to Gubby Allen that he had edged a ball but stayed when given not out. When Allen remonstrated, Hobbs replied that it was unfair to undermine the umpire, adding that "if I had [walked] then he would almost certainly have given me out at the next possible opportunity." Hobbs was one of the game's true gentlemen - in all but name as he was no amateur - but his point was clear. The umpire is there to make decisions and not the player.

Not walking is not cheating. Claiming a catch you know you have not caught cleanly is; the same goes for claiming a bat-pad catch when you know it was nowhere near the edge. The difference is that in one you are leaving the umpire to make his decision, in the other you are openly trying to deceive him

In the post-war period the debate rumbled on. There were many complaints that some batsmen were walkers unless the situation was tight in which case they would stand their ground, aided by the umpire giving them the benefit because of their reputation as a walker. Writing in The Guardian, Mike Selvey claimed that Colin Cowdrey walked for obvious decisions but not for marginal ones in the hope his reputation would save him.

When England visited Australia in 1982-83 they made a collective decision not to walk, the logic being the Australians never did so why should they. It was once said that an Australian only ever walks when his car breaks down.

Bill Lawry, a former captain of Australia, was clear about the issue when he played. "Leave it to the umpire," he said. "The umpire has a job and I have mine. I will not walk." That's fine. He knew he would get a break one day but that on another he would be on the rough end of a bad decision. His view was that the two evened themselves out. As long as a non-walker accepts a bad decision with good grace, what is the problem?

Steve Bucknor, in the eye of the Sydney storm, said a few years ago that some batsmen would only walk when they had passed a hundred and not before they had scored. "If he knows he is out and he goes, that's good for the game," he said. "But the umpire should not depend on someone who is a walker. Otherwise, that same walker may embarrass the umpire.''

In short, unless every player in the world walks without hesitation, it won't work - and human nature means that simply will not happen. There is too much at stake to ask even the most ardent walker to give himself out when he gets the thinnest of edges after being on the receiving end of a string of bad decisions and is, as a result, batting for his place.

Not walking is not cheating. Claiming a catch you know you have not caught cleanly is; the same goes for claiming a bat-pad catch when you know it was nowhere near the edge. The difference is that in one you are leaving the umpire to make his decision, in the other you are openly trying to deceive him.

The umpiring at Sydney was as poor as the umpiring was good in Cape Town. The officials got several decisions badly wrong, and not just ones that the benefit of endless replays showed as being errors. That is something for the ICC to address as it is becoming clear that the demands put on a tiny panel of elite umpires by a burgeoning fixture list is causing the best of them to crack.

The one thing the players can do to help is to leave all the decisions to them. The one thing the public can do is to accept that players should not be expected to act as their own hangmen.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • avinash on January 7, 2008, 14:37 GMT

    Not walking is not cheating- true.Switch to post match press conference of the sixth ODI at Mumbai.Murali Karthik says he nicked it.Ricky Ponting comes along and says '' it would have been nice if he had walked''. So, what about now?. The Indian team has not raised the issue of players not walking, just bad umpiring. Ponting says catches were taken. They clearly were not.So, either Ponting has lost it, or, he is ''cheating'', and then talks about integrity. Harbhajan and Lee have an exchange.They don't have a problem.Symonds walks in''standing up for my team-mate''.What a load of crap.....The Australians are very competetive and good cricketers.But when they start losing, they fear their pants are coming lose.In any case, they have no dignity left anymore........

  • Wayne on January 7, 2008, 13:15 GMT

    We might well say that any batsman who doesn't walk when they know they are out or a fielder that claims a catch when there could be some doubt about the validity of their claim are cheat but how often do we see bowlers appealling for LBW when it is blatantly obvious that it is not out. The appeal is a request for the umpire to adjuciate. A batsman is well within the laws of the game to stand his ground when caught, even when hit to mid-wicket to await an appeal from the fielding team. As far as these element of our game go, no team who plays the game can claim innonce to all of these methods of "cheating" or "persuading the official".

  • S on January 7, 2008, 12:20 GMT

    Spot on Martin Williamson.

    If not walking is cheating, then failing to recall a batsman wrongly given out is cheating too. When, as a matter of course, captains start recalling batsmen who they or their team-mates know are not out, then batsmen can start walking as a matter of course.

    Cricket is a team game. If a batsman is given not out after an edge, it is his duty to the team (not to his personal average) to bat on and make as many runs as he can on behalf of a team mate who was wrongly given out (or who may be wrongly given out later in the innings, or the match).

    It's just a game. But play to win and take the knocks on the chin. Accept the bad decisions with the good grace you expect of your opponents.

  • Larry on January 7, 2008, 11:57 GMT

    I am not sure how accurate it is for the author to claim that not walking isn't cheating. However, one thing is for sure, not walking is certainly *NOT* honorable. Any self-respecting batsman should walk if he knows that he is out. There is no honour in staying at the crease merely due to a lucky reprieve received from an erring umpire.

  • Tushar on January 7, 2008, 11:46 GMT

    Not walking is not illegal, but it is definitely not in the spirit of the game. Cricket should be played at the highest standards of integrity and not at the level of convicts and in-mates.

    Pointing to the attitudes of illustrious but dis-honest cricketing personalities is no justification for how the game should be played.

    If cricket was meant to be only a contest to be won or lost, then test matches, the original form of cricket would always have run to conclusion and not drawn off at the end of fifth day. The very fact that a test match is allowed to be drawn is testament to the fact that there is more to this game than just winning or losing it.

  • Michael on January 7, 2008, 10:50 GMT

    Following on to my previous post.

    He new what he did should have been penalised.....millions witnessed it on the TV replays but the guys there at the time who could penalise him "Didn't see it .........what would the golfing authorities do ? Would any world class golfers do that ?

    I think its fare to say that cricket can now be taken out the catergory as a gentleman's sport when executive cricket writers are writing articles justifying cheating.

  • David on January 7, 2008, 10:37 GMT

    Cricket has for years not been a gentleman's game. It centers around baking the right sponge-cake with the ideal filling and appropriate icing. So the contents of the recipe are as follows: 1. Appointment of umpires and refs etc. 2. Minimum of three press conferences pre-test, praising ability and sportmanship of opposing team by both captains. 3. 10 excellent decisions by umpires. 4. 1 batsman walking before umpire's decision. 5. 5 questionable decisions falling 4:1 against one of the teams. 6. Result achieved in last over of 5th day. Method: 1. Stir in umpires with ability and sportsmanship of both teams 2. Then add 10 excellent decisions and the batsman walking. 3. Allow to settle and rise. 4. Add the questionable decisions and see how the result falls. 5. If the team wins in spite of the dodgy decisions against them you have a perfect sponge cake. 6. If that team is defeated, one is left with all the garbage currently being written.

  • Kelum on January 7, 2008, 10:29 GMT

    For Indians who say not walking is cheating, wind ur memory back to the 3rd ODI in 1997 against Sri Lanka. Ajay Jadeja had clearly nicked the ball off Sajeewa de Silva. The debutant umpire Prof. Sharma had raised his finger to rule Jadeja out but Jadeja didn't care at all & didn't look at the umpire. Then prof. Sharma just touched his hat with that raised finger & JAdeja went on to make a 50. In this case although the umpire had ruled Jadeja out he didn't care & funny thing was umpire had turned his decesion back as the batsman wanted. Wat u call that. Cheating or even worst. those kind of players & backbonless umpires that India had produced over the years.

  • Sri on January 7, 2008, 10:28 GMT

    Gentlemanly behaviour and Australians? I am not saying that Aussies cannot be gentlemen, but in cricket their own contention of "playing hard, fair cricket" that tests the limits of competing teams does not allow for any kind of gentlemanly norms. And there may well be an Aussie definition of Genteel behavior as Ponting declared before the game and then displayed it for all to see - it appeared like a contradiction or hypocrisy this time. So why beat around the bush, just follow the umpire's decisions and hope for the best, as the author amply justifies.

  • Sriram on January 7, 2008, 10:17 GMT

    To Slip51, surely you must think yourself to be a better expert on catches than Ian Chappel, Sunil Gavaskar and probably everybody else in the world. Before you start shooting out of your mouth again, do a little research. Go and check the laws on catching (,58,AR.html). It has the following two points that might interest you.

    1)The act of making the catch shall start from the time when a fielder first handles the ball and shall end when a fielder obtains complete control both over the ball and over his own movement.

    2) The striker is out Caught if a ball delivered by the bowler, .... is subsequently held by a fielder as a fair catch before it touches the ground.

    Ponting and Clarke, when they were rolling were not in control of their movements. And they grounded the ball as they were rolling. Hence, the catch was not completed. QED

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